Prepare for Graduate School

The application process for graduate school is time consuming; start early to ensure success. Below is a brief, general checklist and timeline to follow for applying for graduate school. However, since everyone’s situation is different, make an appointment with a career counselor at Career Services to discuss your interests and learn about helpful resources for graduate school information gathering.

Research Schools and Programs

Attending graduate school should lead you toward your ultimate career goal. Determine which degree will be most beneficial for you in your career growth. Graduate programs vary from school to school and across disciplines (e.g. Ph.D./Masters programs, law school, medical school). Create a system to compare schools and track the application requirements and process. Below are some points to compare as you research.

  • Program time commitment
  • Part-time vs. full-time programs
  • Private vs. public institutions
  • Prerequisite coursework and experience required for specific programs
  • Entrance exams required (e.g. GRE, MCAT, LSAT)
  • Program acceptance rate and competitiveness
  • Faculty research interests and teaching methods
  • Program size and student-to-faculty ratio
  • Program reputation/accreditation
  • Job placement of program graduates
  • Availability of assistantships or fellowships
  • Tuition costs and financial aid available
  • Housing/living expenses

Application Timeline


  • Maintain highest GPA possible and gain experience in the field you want to pursue in graduate school.
  • Consult with professors, UM Alumni, and professionals to discuss their graduate school experiences.

Spring, Junior Year:

  • Determine application procedures, graduate exam requirements, and application deadlines.
  • Schedule time to study for the necessary graduate exam(s) and meet deadlines for taking the exams.
  • Schedule meetings with program faculty members or current students who can answer your questions.
  • Contact graduate programs about the possibility of visiting campuses.

Fall/Winter, Senior Year:

  • Take the required admissions exam(s) and have scores sent to the appropriate institutions.
  • Approach faculty members, employers, etc. to write letters of recommendation.
  • Compose personal statements/essays, resume/CV, and other supplemental information. Have your documents reviewed by a career counselor at Career Services and a faculty member.
  • Submit applications and application fees for each school by (or before) the published deadline.
  • Request scholarship/fellowship/assistantship information from each school where you applied.
  • Complete the FAFSA online and submit all completed scholarship application forms.
  • Prepare for interviews by scheduling a mock interview with Career Services.

Spring, Senior year:

  • Follow-up with institutions that have not contacted you and make your final decision.
  • Submit commitment forms and/or fees to the institution you have chosen, and register for classes.
  • Send thank-you notes to people who wrote your letters of recommendation, informing them of the outcomes.